Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Turn Coat, by Jim Butcher

4 stars

I’m continuing my tear through the Dresden Files, and the latest to be devoured was Turn Coat.

As far as Wardens go, Morgan has always been something of a dick. But one capable of murdering a Senior Council member? Harry doesn’t think so, and uncovering the real killer could also help to expose the existence of what Harry’s been calling the Black Council. Trouble is, as far as the people after Morgan go, the Council is the least scary…

While this entry was missing the holy swords and Merlin hints that really tickle my excitement buds, this entry still builds brilliantly upon and hints at a bigger mythology to be discovered (Demonreach!! And Ebenezar’s journal entries. Oh, the possibilities…) as well as starring a particularly dashing appearance by my favourite, Toot.

Ending on something of a bittersweet note, I don’t think I can stop here. While marvelling at the fact that this is the 11th book in the series and that I’m more addicted than ever, I need to get my ass over to the Kindle store and download Changes!

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Beyond Lies The Wub, by Philip K Dick

The Collected Stories of Philip K Dick, Vol 1 - 5 stars

Considering how prolific Dick was, it's not entirely unreasonable to assume that a collection of short stories, mostly written over nine months during his early twenties, would house a few duds.

Beyond Lies The Wub never dips below excellent, but simply varies the different flavours of awesome it delivers with each.

Containing a wealth of ideas, imagination and humour and covering a variety of familiar themes, some of the stories I enjoyed most were some of those I least expected: Roog, starring a dog tormented in attempting to defend his family's rubbish from the garbagemen, Expendable, in which a man realises his insignificance in an insect war, Prize Ship's take on Gulliver's Travels and Out In The Garden's Leda and the Swan. Colony, Meddler, The Defenders, The Great C and Nanny were also treats, but if I named all those worth your time I'm going to pretty much sit and type out the table of contents.

Honestly, the only thing better than finishing a volume of Philip K Dick stories is knowing you've already got another volume sat waiting for you on your shelves.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Small Favor, by Jim Butcher

5 stars

I don't seem able to stop reading Harry Dresden lately. Partly because I've managed to accidentally spoil a few upcoming events for myself and want to get up to date so that I'm back in the dark again, but mostly because I'm finding each book more exciting than the last and can't wait to read on.

Small Favor is no exception, as Mab taps Harry for one of the favours he owes her and sends him on the trail of Marcone, recently disappeared by the Denarians (whose last appearance meant all kinds of Hell for Harry). She'd quite like him to be her Winter Knight too, but for now that's an offer that Harry can refuse (although it's sure to soon bite him in the ass). As his luck would have it, as well as going up against some of the worst foes he's encountered yet, Summer wants a piece of him too (though he's not sure why) and have awesomely sent some Gruffs to deal with him. As well as loving the bad-ass Billy-Goats, I get a little shiver of excitement every time we start touching on Harry playing Merlin (not The Merlin, but the Merlin) and so, for me, this instalment was extra shivery. Other things tickling my glee spot this time around were:

  • Bob proving to be a book-yeller, just like me.
  • Toot. Any time Toot is involved I go to my happy place, but particularly when he's pulling a Full Metal Jacket and letting slip about 'Za-Lord's Guard.
  • Murphy's McAnally's showdown. I think I may have a wee girl-crush on Murph, who doesn't need to accept a sword to kick ass.
  • Goodness gracious, great fists of Soulfire.
  • Wagner, baby.

Most series start well and go downhill from there but that isn't the case with Harry Dresden. I'm trying really, really hard not to immediately go and splurge on the next book, but can already feel my willpower wavering...

Sunday, 16 February 2014

White Night, by Jim Butcher

4 stars

Seeing as the last entry was so much fun I decided to hang waiting a while and jump straight in to the next instalment of Harry and his amazing friends.

Another fun, light entry that still manages to raise quite a few stakes, this time around someone is killing low-level magic practitioners in Chicago. Worse still, it's looking as though that person might be Thomas.

With Harry's being a Warden meaning people are now more afraid of him than want his help, and with him relying on Lash (who now even has her own nickname) more and more than he'd ever have allowed before, he barely seems to have noticed the small changes that have taken place in his personality. Others have though...

With only one small misfire (the New Mexico thing, which I initially thought must have meant there was side story that I'd missed that contained all the important information, but which turned out to be waiting for a flashback halfway through the book) the twists and turns are as enjoyable as ever, and I love how Butcher manages to work in other characters that we've met along the way, as in the bullet-flinging alliance with Gentleman Johnny.

I enjoyed it so much, in fact, that I'm more tempted than ever to give up reading anything else for the moment in favour of ploughing through the remaining Harry's instead.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Love, love, love...

Seeing as it's Valentines Day, it seems rude not to join in with the rest of the world and start banging on about love. That said, I'm not particularly romantic and have never been good at expressing those kind of sentiments, so it's probably best to let music do the talking.

Take it as read that you could throw a bunch of darts at a stack of soul records and guarantee that every single one would hit a blinding love song, but we’re going to take a look at love using some of my other favourites instead.

So, love. It can be...


For iPhone/iPad click here.


For iPhone/iPad click here.


For iPhone/iPad click here.


For iPhone/iPad click here.

Slightly morbid:

For iPhone/iPad click here.


For iPhone/iPad click here.

Probably not for a person:

For iPhone/iPad click here.

Slightly creepy:

For iPhone/iPad click here.


For iPhone/iPad click here.


For iPhone/iPad click here.


For iPhone/iPad click here.

Impossible for any man other than Prince to live up to:

(and unembeddable, but I will not be thwarted.)

Click here.


For iPhone/iPad click here.

A bitch:

For iPhone/iPad click here.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Proven Guilty, by Jim Butcher

4 stars

So, it turns out I only needed to have read one more in the series to meet the protege I was spoiled for in Dangerous Women.  

With the White Council's numbers somewhat thinned thanks to the war with the Red Court, Harry has become a Warden and been tasked to ferret out the casters of the black magic that's been taking place in Chicago. Meanwhile, Michael's teenage daughter, Molly, has found herself mixed up in a situation where movie monsters are manifesting and messing up everyone around them - something that might not be entirely unconnected to the aforementioned black magic.

I'm really enjoying how this world continues to grow and found this instalment to be a particularly fun one that didn't stress me out anywhere near as much as some of the previous entries. That fun was tested for a particular moment in the book...

...but thankfully it's starting to seem that there's way more to some of Harry's companions than meets the eye.

When it comes to his love life, I have to admit that I'm way more invested in whether I'm right in looking forward to Murphy getting the spare holy sword than whether she'll end up snogging Harry, but that's a minor quibble in a series that I'm still eating up with a spoon and wanting more of.

Monday, 3 February 2014

North and South, by Elizabeth Gaskell

3 stars

A Victorian romance dressed up with some social commentary on the class differences between the north and south of the country and between the working and middle class, I'm finding this book rather hard to rate; I think I enjoyed it, while at the same time hating most of the characters and the heavy-handedness with which they were drawn.

Having been brought up by her wealthy relations, on her cousin's marriage Margaret Gale returns to live with her parents in the picturesque village of Helstone. Already quite a drop in circumstances, when Margaret's father leaves his position as parson due to a crisis of conscience, their removal to the northern industrial town of Milton sees their fortunes fall even further, and puts them into contact with the impoverished labourers from the local mills. While Margaret strikes up a condescending friendship with the dying daughter of one of the local Union men, Margaret's father becomes a private tutor to Mr Thornton, one of the mill owners. 

Margaret is the kind of heroine that everyone falls in love with (and I think we're supposed to love her too, although in my opinion she's a snotty little twerp) and Mr Thornton is no exception. Unhappily for him, Margaret has already dismissed him in her mind as a mere tradesman, and reacts to his declaration of love as if somebody had just presented her with a bowl of vomit. But Mr Thornton isn't one to be put off by her scorn and, while his relationship with his employees slowly starts to change as he develops a social conscience, Margaret slowly comes to realise that she might love him back.

Like many of its time, this book was apparently initially serialised - something which probably accounts for its tedious pace, with far too much waffling over the same ground (I felt like I'd heard every iteration possible of Mr Thornton's feelings towards Margaret) to ever feel like we were getting anywhere. 

Its characters had a tendency towards the melodramatic - I was soon sick of Bessy Higgins, the poor, dying waif who spends her time lying around looking waif-like and making sure that she includes the fact that she's dying in every sentence, and didn't find Margaret's parents (especially her poor, fragile father who can barely be told anything without breaking down into anguished sobs) any better. And whilst appreciating that the novel made a focus of the conditions that affected the labouring classes, I was annoyed that most of those we came into contact with (save for Nicholas Higgins) were portrayed as bovine and simple (Mary Higgins) or slovenly and plagued with children, whom they viewed (as in the case of Mrs Boucher) "as incumbrances, even in the midst of her somewhat animal affection for them."

Yet for all that it sounds as though I loathed every second of this book, I still found myself constantly promising myself just one more chapter whenever I ought to have been putting it down and getting on with something else, so I'm giving up and giving it a three.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Things I Miss

A long distance catch-up with Midge and a short visit with Rerab this afternoon got me thinking. There are a few things I miss these days, including:

The sun...

It's been so long since I saw the sun that if it chose to appear in the sky now I'd probably turn into a medieval villager and start screaming about the fiery ball of doom about to consume us all.

...and not being wet

I'm not kidding when I say I have spent the last three months in the wet, howling dark. With the rain coming sideways most days, the short walk to work usually sees me arrive looking like I've just stepped, fully clothed, out of the shower.

Reading at lunch

Once upon a time, when I worked with Midge, every lunch saw me getting a solid half hour of Kindle time. My new working life stole that lunch break entirely for a stretch, but being in (another) new team has meant taking lunch breaks once more. Sadly, my Kindle hasn't yet made it out of my bag as people insist on talking to me instead.

Knowing who pop stars are, and them being any good

Most of my brushes with popular music these days consist of me asking "What's a Macklemore?" or "so, people actually buy this shit?"

To my ears, all pop now sounds like this (and thanks to Is for sharing):

For iPhone/iPad click here.

My telly choices

Luckily, NikNak and I share similar tastes in film and telly and therefore avoid a lot of arguing over the TV remote. However, there are a few things I like that NikNak wouldn't be caught dead watching. Reality TV, heavy literary adaptations, historical dramas and films that feature a lot of dancing are all things which must wait until he's either asleep or out of the house. But the fact that he's a super-sensitive sleeper who seems to instinctively know that you've changed the channel, and that I'm either asleep or at work when he's out of the house, means that I must simply accept that I will never get to watch Channing Tatum dance again. Sniff!

Films that don't make me fall asleep

I've always been something of a film buff and times gone by saw me often in the cinema, buying at least a few DVD's a month, and able to reel off a ton of new releases I was looking forward to. It's been a pretty pants few years for films, and even the ones I've got around to watching have put me to sleep within a few minutes. The Lone Ranger prompted an instant coma, Carrie wasn't a patch on the original, Star Trek: Into Darkness lacked all of the charm that made its predecessor such fun, and American Hustle was so boring that I started watching Christian Bale's comb-over rather than caring about anything happening. Thank the gods, then, for The Wolf of Wall Street and Leonardo DiCaprio's hilarious turn that managed to make me forget that I think he's a douchebag most of the time.

Being able to play computer games

NikNak and I spend a lot of time playing computer games but, over the years, the games we play have started to change. Games have evolved a lot since I first picked up a controller, becoming bigger and more complex with each release. Unfortunately, my skills have not evolved with them, and my attempts at playing Assassin's Creed saw me showing off my falling off roof skills while my tendency to accidentally steal from crowds of people meant I spent a lot of time running away from enraged mobs.

Halo wasn't any better, after I somehow jammed myself into a corner under enemy fire and couldn't get back out again, and even Little Big Planet was too hard. From now on I'm sticking with the Lego games, which are far more my style (although I still get stuck a lot).

Liking Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp used to be the coolest man on the planet. Never apparently one to actively court fame, instead of going for the money he could usually be found starring in great little indies while keeping his private life mostly private (apart from the odd bout of hotel room trashing). Captain Jack clearly did something irrevocable to him, as he can now be found starring in the latest Disney shitshows which have clearly had more money than thought flung at them, had an awful mid-life crisis hairdo and picked up the young blonde to match, while having his PR feed  "Isn't Amber great?" pieces to the tabloids at least once a week. Still, at least he seems to have stopped with the scarves.....for now.

Hating Bieber

Let me start this by saying that I have never knowingly heard a Justin Bieber song. And up until recently, I didn't really think much of the kid at all, other than that he seemed to have more money than was good for him and no-one telling him no. I still think that's the case, and I'm still going to avoid hearing his music for as long as is humanly possible, but in an age where most celebrities are busy protecting the brand and hiding any signs of their true personalities, I'm starting to be grateful for at least one celebrity who is good for gossip and who seems set to give us plenty more chuffed looking mugshots in 2014.

Believing that I'd get to the end of A Game of Thrones before the show does

I first started reading the Song of Ice and Fire series back in 2010. I was late to the party too - many had been reading since A Game of Thrones was first published back in 1996. Eighteen years later, we're still waiting for the last two books (and the last entry, A Dance With Dragons, was published six years after its predecessor).

I used to worry that George RR Martin would pull a Robert Jordan before the series end. Now I'm worried that the show will get to the end long before the books do.